by Kali Kardas
Residents of Eugene, Oregon have a pretty sweet deal. Not only is the city small, still (somewhat) affordable for the Pacific Northwest, and close to mountains and beaches, but there is a bustling arts scene with countless entertainment options every week. I had the fortune to see (The Misadventures of) Casanova by Ballet Fantastique last Friday, and found myself transported into a rich world of movement, passion, and romance.
Ballet Fantastique (or BFan for short) is a classical dance company with modern sensibilities. While you will experience the soothing sounds of a live orchestra playing Vivaldi and Bach, the dances are also paired with narration, colorful costumes, and original choreography. They are one of the resident companies of Eugene’s Hult Center, a large performance space that brings everything from broadway musicals to the symphony to touring comedians to our little city. If you haven’t seen a show at the Hult yet, you’re missing out on one of Eugene’s few luxurious experiences.
Casanova was based on one of Italy’s most famous romantic scoundrels, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt (1725–1798). Casanova’s autobiography is one of history’s best accounts of society life in Europe during that time. He became famous for his high-profile affairs, even with wives of heads of state or otherwise prominent stations. Bfan used their signature style of narrative introductions before each dance. Their choreography emphasizes storytelling through movement, so the audience can stay engaged and follow along.
Mother-daughter team Donna and Hannah Bontrager lead the company as resident choreographer-producers, and their passion for ballet and keeping it relevant to modern audiences shines through. Each dance was beautiful and well-acted, with vivid facial expressions and body language from each dancer. I also appreciated that so many company members got to have a shining moment in a dance solo rather than a stereotypical focus on one lead. It felt like an ensemble and a celebration of women. However, the most exciting moment in the ballet was the piece featuring guest artist but BFan favorite Raymond Silos, who cascaded down from the rafters on aerial silks. In a daring and exciting performance suspended twenty feet in the air, Silos’ portrayal of Ivan the spy took my breath away.
Aside from the dancing, I was impressed with the ballet set pieces, featuring a floor-to-ceiling backdrop illustrating a grand ballroom and intricately finished furniture pieces. The show also incorporated light projections of letters being written. Along with the colorful costumes, hair, and makeup, the show was a delightful aesthetic.
The music was another highlight, as the audience could also witness members of the Oregon Mozart Players playing their hearts out and filling the theatre with luscious harmonies. My friend and I were blown away by the technical skill and beauty of the featured soprano, Henriet Fourie, in two pieces.
Overall, Ballet Fantastique is a wonderful asset to our community in its celebration of dance and classical music and its unique storytelling. The special combination of local artisans, mixed mediums, stories, narration, acting, and dance make it a one-of-a-kind experience and therefore a regional treasure for the Willamette Valley.
While Casanova was only performed one weekend, be sure to catch Ballet Fantastique’s next show, Robin Hood and Maid Marion, debuting Mother’s Day weekend.
Kali Kardas is a performer, writer, and fitness instructor. She is passionate about food, theatre, and body positivity! She also has an MBA in Sustainable Business from City University of Seattle and has ten years of marketing and communications experience. She lives in Eugene with her husband and three cats. See can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.